Hearst Castle has a unique charm that everyone needs to experience at least once in their lifetime. And you’re in luck as they have Hearst Castle tours that attract over 700,000 visitors a year. You may be asking, where is Hearst Castle? Located in San Simeon, California, about four hours south of the bay area, and four hours north of Los Angeles, it’s a perfect centrally located day trip in California. My mother and I visited La Cuesta Encantada, aka Hearst Castle, back in June 2010. Hearst Castle is an unbelievably enchanting place to visit. Being that I’ll be visiting Europe in just over a month, I wanted to take a moment to focus on a stateside travel destination.
Hearst Castle History
Designed by architect Julia Morgan, Hearst Castle’s history begins as a residence for newspaper titan William Randolph Hearst between 1919 and 1947. He called the estate “La Cuesta Encantada,” which is Spanish for The Enchanted Hill. By 1947, the estate has a twin-towered main building, three guesthouses, and 127 acres of gardens, fountains, and pools. After Hearst’s death in 1951, the castle became a California State Park in 1958. Since then, it has operated as the Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument, which includes the estate, as well as an art and antique collection.
The Neptune and Roman Pools at La Cuesta Encantada
One of the most impressive features of the castle is the pools. There is an outdoor one and an indoor one. The outdoor one is called the Neptune pool and originally began as an ornamental pond. However, the desire for a swimming pool and the addition of the Roman temple saw many changes being partly original and partly from European pieces. The indoor one is a Roman Pool modeled after ancient Roman baths. It is intensely detailed, tiled from ceiling to floor, and has marble copies of eight ancient Greek and Roman deities and athletes around it.
A Vast Libary in San Simeon, California
If you thought the pool was impressive, check out William Randolph Hearst’s library! Built for his guests’ use, it houses more than 4,000 books! As well as 150 ancient Greek vases, which are all more than two thousand years old. That’s as old as Pompeii! A majority of the library collections have first editions, often signed. Some of them by Charles Dickens, his favorite author. Are you a fan of libraries as well? Check out the Austrian National Library then, it’s gorgeous!
The Refectory (The Dining Room)
Looking like a room more fit for King Arthur and his knights, it’s decorated with colorful silk banners from Italy. Inspired by the Italian Renaissance, the long table in the middle is from an Italian monastery. See the red and yellow on the table? Those are bottles of mustard and ketchup that William Randolph Hearst liked to keep things informal at La Cuesta Encantada.
Can you imagine all the famous faces he had sit at this table? Clark Gable, Sir Winston Churchill, Howard Hughes, Greta Garbo, Cary Grant, George Bernard Shaw, Jack Warner, Charlie Chaplin, Louis B. Mayer, and more?!?!
The Best Hearst Castle Tours
Which Heart Castle tour is the best? Being that the estate has 165 rooms and 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools, and walkways, it is a vast place to visit. We opted to take the Grand Rooms and the Upstairs Suites tours. To be honest, our guide on the first tour was lackluster and didn’t engage me as a visitor. So much so that I thought it was a waste of a day trip in California. I’m the kind of person that can look at a beautiful place or destination and pretty much respond with ‘eh’ until I actually know something about it.
Without details, I’m just not as interested. And this tour guide lacked a lot of details, so much so that I could have probably given the Hearst Castle Grand Rooms tour. And that’s the whole point of a tour guide. It’s someone there to inform you about the location. However, all was redeemed by the second tour guide who was bustling with facts and tales of Hearst Castle. I wish I could remember her name because I’d give her a shout out here. So honestly, in my opinion, it depends on what tour guide you get as far as which is the best Hearst Castle tour.
Touring the Castle in San Simeon, California
If you’re going to go all the way to San Simeon, California, you should at least do two tours would be my advice. This way, you can get a good feel of this castle in California. To visit Heart Castle, you must join a guided tour. Hearst Castle tours range from about 60 minutes to 2 hours. All of which include the aforementioned Neptune Pool and Roman Pool. As well as time to explore the gardens.
Heart Castle Tours
- Grand Rooms Tour (option: Accessibly Designed)
- Evening Tour (option: Accessibly Designed)
- Holiday Twilight Tour (option: Accessibly Designed)
- Upstairs Suites Tour
- Cottages & Kitchens Tour
- Designing the Dream Tour
- Art of San Simeon Tour
- Hearst and Hollywood Tour
- Private Tour
Visiting Hearst Castle
Arrive before your tour to take in the 40-minute film Hearst Castle: Building the Dream, which provides an overview of the construction and building of the castle. You can also watch it after your tour if you miss it before. A rotating free exhibition at the visitor center is also a great place to check out. There is a bus that takes you from the visitor center to the castle, so make sure you show up a little before your scheduled tour for the bus ride.
At the time of this posting, the Hearst Castle tours were $25.00 for adults and $12.00 for children, per tour. You can reserve tickets online up to 60 days in advance so you can get a start on your planning for your day trip in California. A number of different tours are on offer, all of which are listed on their website. Some are seasonal so make sure to check before going that the tour you’re interested in is available.
How to Get to Hearst Castle?
Best to get to Hearst Castle by car as it’s a kind of out of the way spot. It would be a great pit spot on your way to wine country, like Sonoma County. There is free visitor parking located at the Visitor Center. You can also get here via public transit, day tour, or taxi.
Address: 750 Hearst Castle Road, San Simeon, CA 93452
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